Tuesday, June 19, 2001

Victoria's Secret and Catharsis by Overhearing Oneself


According to Dubby's view of modern psychology, there are 4 stages to the resolution of a tragedy. At first there is denial, which is replaced by shock and disbelief, giving way to understanding that ultimately leads to closure through catharsis - clearing the way for life to move ahead once again. On Sunday night, the group that had gathered at Usha-TV's - were clearly in a mode of transition between stages 3 to 4. Normally, the Kats socialites suffer from chronic party hangover. But, the 2 weeks of mourning (when all entertaining was taboo) had forced a social sabbatical of sorts on the city cocktail circuit regulars. So, recovering from mild symptoms of party-drought, everyone was gasping for a breath of fresh air and an opportunity to unwind. ( Can't think of letting your hair down in the sedate surroundings of a Baluwater Tamil house-hold. In anycase, the men with their shaven heads couldn't have contributed much in that respect ). The only Rana woman in our midst ( the closest we can get to Royalty, as S… never misses an opportunity to point out ) enthralled the ladies with the 'inner sanctum' account of the events and a low down on the who's who of the drama. Equally fascinating, was listening to the RB brothers on how they struggled on that fateful night with the decision of putting up the news on their website. And, of course, we teased RB-junior on the 'Salzburg syndrome' for his valiant defense of Barkha Dutt ("she's really an extremely nice girl - very genuine, you know! ") with whom he had spent a week in romantic Austria on a seminar junket some months ago (no wonder he hears only the 'sound of music' in all her reportage and not to mention the missed dagger 'eye contacts' of his pretty wife). But, by the end of the evening - judging from the roll of laughter and the free flow of the 'unofficial' 'RAT-TAT-TAT' jokes (which our newly learnt rules of self-censorship would not allow us to publish) - everyone seemed ready to get on once again with the business of living life "king size" ( 'Shikhar' being the new brand of choice).

In Bengal, we call the feast to mark the end of mourning - 'Niyam Bhanga', meaning - quite literally - breaking the rule. To that extent, we had a rather 'unruly' ( but thoroughly enjoyable ) bash on Friday for the impromptu celebrations of the 'M's 20th wedding anniversary (for which, we're have been warned by well-meaning well-wishers, our friendly neighbours may never forgive us). It was a last minute impulse decision of S… to call up all (but one ) the guests asking them to bring along something that would both 'surprise' and 'embarrass' the 'M's. With a little help from Khanna-saab of the Anna ( it pays to have friends at the right places ) the Ghoses organised a cake with 20 plus 5 written on it (20 years of marriage and 5 years of 'living in sin' prior to that, making a silver jubilee of togetherness. Prem and Purnima carried 2 shocking heart-shaped balloons. ( It would have been great if one could get a Band-party in tow - but, the notice was just too short for doing anything more creative or dramatic ). But, the Ms themselves rose to the occasion brilliantly, as one would normally expect them to even if it was not their anniversary. After mild initial protestations - they produced almost instantly a neat pink ribbon tied knife (as if they had it ready all along). And, after the ceremonious cutting of the cake , all the other couples took turns (in the order of their seniority - starting with the parents, who were also present) to feed a slice to their respective spouses amidst the click of flash bulbs. Pity, the Blogger doesn't have a photo-gallery, yet.

True, these are times of momentous changes. But what about changing the Self ? Aha , that's not so easy ! The latest HBR ( nothing to with JBR - humro Jung Bahdurs, we promise ) has a very unusual article on "Change Management" - a conversation with the literary critic Harold Bloom. The piece is titled "A Reading List for Bill Gates - and You". Bloom talks of change and says change always arises out of the unexpected. It may be the unexpectedness of self-knowledge through over-hearing yourself or……..something imposed by external events. He makes a distinction between hearing oneself and over-hearing. In the latter you are unaware that, you are the speaker. It's a moment of literal non-recognition in which you're shocked to discover that you are speaking. That's when we learn about ourselves without self-consciousness. He recommends Shakespeare and Cervantes ( Don Quixote ) to all those who are not accustomed to speaking to themselves ( which he suspects is the case with the likes of Bill Gates ).

Bloom is, however, candid enough to admit that, although literature makes people more aware and acquire a broader range of sensibilities and thus increase our capacity for mastering change - it does not necessarily make us more moral. Some arty folks - who have the subtlest and most comprehensive consciousness are also the biggest scroundels on earth. Something, that Dubby and our 'hubby', would surely agree with.

And, if you were wondering where all this was leading upto - it's to S..'s latest find on the Amazon - Robert Wright's : The Moral Animal. After the Selfish Genes ( Richard Dawkins ) and the Red Queen ( Matt Riddley ), Wright is the latest to join the Darwinian band-wagon of evolutionary psychology throwing new light on the same questions: Are men literally born to cheat? Does monogamy actually serve women's interests? S…, of course, would insist that he reads such stuff only to 'understand' D's fatal obsession for D…, which was the root of his now "Famous Grouse" against the parents.

Back to Bloom again, he laments the decline of humanities by what he calls a curious amalgam of Feminism and Marxism. He talks about this young lady he knows, who is doing her Doctoral Dissertation at Yale on the history of representation of the female breast in English novels. So, look out for previews of Victoria's Secret in future editions of the Blogspot. That will be the ultimate cathartic experience, in the best of Blog traditions, guaranteed.